Choosing the right home for your bird is an important task - after all, their home is their castle!
The type of housing you pick will depend on whether you're keeping a bird indoors in a cage or outside in an aviary.
From getting the right size to making sure your bird is entertained, here's what you need to consider.
Keeping indoor birds in a cage
It’s really important that the cage you buy is functional and secure – not merely ornamental. Don’t be tempted to purchase fancy high-rise wooden cages. They might look good, but budgies, cockatiels and parrots will reduce them to matchsticks in no time. Function over form should be your mantra when it comes to choosing a cage for an indoor bird.
Avoid purchasing cages with galvanised wire bars or mesh. The zinc coating may cause heavy metal poisoning when ingested. The best cages are made from stainless steel. A well-built cage should last you and your pet a lifetime.
Remember, birds are natural flyers and need room to spread and flap their wings. If a cage is too cramped, your bird can become stressed and develop unwelcome behaviours. These include biting, self-mutilation, screaming and obsessions.
Choose the largest cage you can afford, and go for length rather than height. Birds don’t naturally fly straight up - they swoop in shallow arcs across an area.
While precise cage measurements vary depending on the type of bird, a good general rule is to choose a cage that is at least twice the width of the bird’s outstretched wingspan. Toys, mirrors, water and food dispensers will all take up space inside the cage, so you’ll want to keep this in mind when choosing the right cage for your bird.
The distance between the bars of the cage should be narrow enough so the bird cannot squeeze its head through and get stuck.
Perches and flooring
Perches should be made of wood, not plastic or metal. Tree branches of various sizes make the best perches. This lets your bird constantly flex and exercise its claws as it wanders around the cage. Wood perches will also help keep their nails in check.
Place two or three perches inside the cage, keeping them clear of water dispensers or baths.
Many cages come fitted with removeable floors for ease of cleaning. These plastic trays slide out beneath the wire base of the cage, allowing you to simply wash off droppings and other debris. Alternatively, you can line the cage with newspaper, sand, or paper towel.
Keeping them entertained
Don’t clutter the cage with too many toys but one or two can help keep your bird entertained. You can also keep things interesting by adding a spray of millet or grass seeds each day, and give them a bird bath to splash around in. Just make sure it's not so deep that they can't get out easily.
Food and water dispensers
Food and water dispensers should be fastened to the sides of the cage, to prevent contamination. Be sure to remove and clean dispensers daily. ‘Hooded’ and ‘sipper’ dispensers are a good idea as they allow your bird to eat and drink, without the risk of droppings soiling the food source.
Finally, always position your cage at eye level in a well-lit, airy and social area of your home. Never place it on the floor or in the kitchen where fumes from cooking can damage your bird’s respiratory health.
Aviaries for outdoor birds
Aviaries allow you to house a whole flock of colourful pets. Like indoor cages, bigger is better. And again, length is more important than width. You want to be able to see your birds, while encouraging them to fly. For example, an aviary four metres long, 1.2 metres wide and three metres high could easily house a flock of budgies.
Like cages, you need to consider where to place food and water dispensers. You'll also need to add plenty of perches and some nesting boxes.
Other factors to consider
- Location – avoid building an aviary on shady, windy, or rain-exposed areas of your property.
- Materials – Use quality wire mesh and non-treated timber to construct your aviary. Make sure the roofing is waterproof.
- Pest control - keep mice and rats under control by making sure you clean the aviary regularly and keep food in airtight containers.
- Noise – aviaries are loud, so don’t place it against your neighbour’s fence!
Budgie or parrot, cockatiel or lorikeet, choosing the right home for your bird is the best way to show your beaked buddy you love them.